“Memory is not an instrument for exploring the past but its theatre. It is the medium of past experience, as the ground is the medium in which dead cities lie interred.”There comes a time when the function and frailty of memory becomes a preoccupation. Forgetfulness is perversely accompanied by an increased acuity of distant memories. Nostalgia becomes a way of life… a fleeting reflection… an ethereal glimpse of something familiar through the mind’s eye… fragments of memory like shards of mirror… a vision barely visible through the broken glass in the window of time.
My work comprises of three installations informed by the subject of my dissertation which explores, through concepts derived from neuro-aesthetics, the allegorical relationship between decay, the frailty and function of memory and the influence of nostalgia.
I have chosen to examine this complex relationship through the visual language of moving image and the perishable photograph. In a manner similar to Roland Barthes, the basis for my exploration is a photograph of my mother as a young woman.
The viewer contemplates a visual illusion created by multiple layers of imagery, reflection, transparency and moving image. Richard Gregory used the ‘Dalmatian Dog Illusion’ to illustrate how the brain may resolve visual complexity using genetically hard wired, primitive survival neuro-physiological processes. The installation endeavours to represent the way in which our brains resolve the initial complexity of a visual experience into the familiar. As with Gregory's illusion, once resolved the resultant image cannot be unresolved; the passage of time challenges memory and the ability to resolve complexity.
The digital projector is employed as a modern day Camera Obscura to explore Barthes notion of the ‘Punctum’ and the ‘Noeme’ (that-has-been). The projected image starts with a familiar image that could be carried in the wallet or reside in a well worn family album. The image is initially vivid, nostalgic – the ‘Punctum"’ – but with the passage of time, it decays, leaving an enduring memory – the ‘Noeme’ (that-has-been). This work considers one of the earliest attempts to explain visual memory, by considering the analogy of Plato's wax tablet, Freud's mystic writing pad and even the modern computer, all of which consider memory as layers.
The advent of photography offered an obvious metaphor for memory. Once described as the mirror with a memory, paradoxically, the photograph frequently endures when memory fades and fragments. This aspect of my work tries to represent the decay of the familiar into the unfamiliar. The glass surface reflects a familiar portrait whilst the fractures represent the frailty of memory.